Police general arrested in gambling scandal

Nguyen Thanh Hoa was in charge of tackling internet based crime.

A former head of the police’s high-tech crime unit has been arrested on charges of involvement in a major online gambling ring.

The prosecution of Major-General Nguyen Thanh Hoa threatens to further undermine the credibility of the police in a country where resentment of official corruption and abuse of power  is already running high.

Hoa, who was responsible for tackling internet based crime, is accused of involvement in a multi-million dollar gambling syndicate that had some 8 million online members.

He was arrested at a Hanoi hospital on Sunday evening after the intervention of top leaders of the Communist party.

The general-secretary of the party, Nguyen Phu Trong, presided over a meeting earlier in the day that ordered a full investigation into online gambling.

Mr Trong has previously praised the police as a key weapon in the Communist party’s leadership of Vietnam and as an instrument to suppress its opponents.

President Tran Dai Quang moved quickly to strip Hoa of his remaining official posts.

The decision appeared to acknowledge that guilt in Vietnam is decided by the party and its minions in the prosecution department rather than by the courts.

“This is a particularly large scale case that uses high technology; the case itself is especially serious, complex and sensitive, involving many people, many sectors and provinces, involving officials within the police,” said a statement released by the party’s secretariat on Sunday.

Hoa had been suspended from his post as head of the high-tech unit, known as C50, at the end of last year.

Some 40 million US dollars has already been seized by investigators as they move to break up the gambling ring.